Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fighting Back

The Senate Judiciary Committee plans to hear Sen. Brandt Hershman's proposed constitutional amendment (SJR-7) to discriminate against unmarried couples, both gay and straight, on January 31, 2007. Hershman believes the institution of marriage is threatened unless our constitution specifically limits marriage to one man and one woman and prohibits the government from recognizing any legal incidents of marriage for any unmarried couples or groups. AI recently pointed to Hershman's hypocrisy on the issue of family values. While Hershman as an elected legislator advocates protecting marriage and laws opposing abortion, his ex-wife once publicly alleged he forced her to get an abortion and then filed for divorce a week later.

To my disappointment, this story continues to be ignored by the mainstream media. A fellow blogger, Bil Browning at Bilerico, is now taking up the fight and asking questions about Hershman's hypocrisy, as well as that of a number of other legislators whose public positions collide with their own personal lives. Browning advocates a full airing of these legislator's dirty laundry. As Browning writes:

I'm sick and tired of these hypocritical Hoosier legislators who think that my sex life or relationship status is any of their business. Do I intrude on who they're sleeping with? I didn't, but I'm going to start now. I think we need to shame them into doing the right thing and voting against discrimination. We need to show them that unnecessary intrusion into someone else's sex life is not only unwelcome but unwarranted unless it involves children or animals. We need to burn their hand so they won't touch the stove again.

Consider this a call to arms gossip. (We're gay, we can do this tastefully and without violence! *grins*) I want to know the scoop. Tell me the stories that will embarrass those conservative bigots that are backing a constitutional ban on our formalized relationships. Send me gossip about who's a philanderer, a kink fiend, a drug addict, a porn addict, or had a divorce, an abortion or even a stay in rehab. Ask your friends and family for the dirt. Look it up on the internet. Sniff out a lead and send it my way.

Browning's post discusses specific acts of hypocrisy by several legislators without mentioning them by name. One of my personal favorites is the senator who befriended a much older, wealthy gay man who left a sizeable estate to him, then used the man's money to self-finance his campaign for the state senate, and has ever since established a record of supporting legislative efforts to discriminate against gays and lesbians without exception.

I know a lot of people have reservations about making an issue of a public official's private life. Anyone entering public life, in my view, gives up a complete claim to a right to privacy. When a public official aggressively participates in the pursuit of a public policy agenda promoting government intervention into matters of sex and sexual relationships among consenting adults, then private actions of the public official which are at odds with his public policy positions are fair game in my judgment. To paraphrase the New York Times' Randy Cohen, it is the denying to others what the politician does himself that provokes and warrants public disdain of the politician.

And so it is with Sen. Hershman the height of hypocrisy to advocate a constitutional amendment to "preserve the sanctity of marriage" and to support anti-abortion laws, while demanding of his ex-wife that she abort their unborn child and then conveniently terminate their marriage by filing for divorce. It is unthinkable and unconscionable for our media to ignore this glaring hypocrisy. The state's paper of record, the Indianapolis Star, found it important enough to out the identity of a man in a chicken suit, who's been dogging the mayor about his record on fighting crime at public events, and report on his alleged criminal past. And yet the private life of a state senator poised to succeed in his efforts to write discrimination into our state's constitution against unmarried couples merits no discussion by this same newspaper?

When I first reported on the news story which appeared in the Logansport Pharos-Tribune, I ran an exerpted version of the story. I'm reprinting the full story below as it appeared on November 7, 2000:

Ex-wife of candidate endorsed by Right to Life says that he paid for her abortion in 1997
Indiana Senate District 7 candidate Kathy Altman says Republican Brandt Hershman misrepresented her pro-life stand.


By DAVE KITCHELLPharos-Tribune staff writer
The open seat for one Logansport area legislative race is encountering an open season on a controversial issue as the campaign enters its final day.

The former wife of Republican State Senate candidate Brandt Hershman said Monday that his pro-life positions and endorsement by Indiana Right to Life do not conform with his personal beliefs. Tracy Johnson Hershman said when she became pregnant in early 1997, Hershman asked her to have an abortion. On May 30, 1997, she claims he drove her to the Planned Parenthood clinic in Merrillville where he paid for her to abort their child. Hershman asked her for a divorce a week later, she said.

"This is about somebody who really isn't who he says he is," said Johnson Hershman, a former Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger reporter who now resides in Michigan City.

Hershman said he considers her comments a vicious attack that comes from the campaign of his opponent, Democrat Kathy Altman of Monticello.

"It's dirty politics is what it is," said Hershman, who has been a member of Rep. Steve Buyer's staff and formerly worked in the White House during the Bush administration. "I obviously had an unpleasant divorce."

Hershman said the last-minute revelation is similar to the one facing the Republican candidate for president. Last week, George W. Bush was reported to have been arrested for drunken driving in Maine in 1976. Two subsequent arrests also were disclosed.

"They tried it against George Bush and now they are trying it against me," he said. "I won't revisit or wish any ill will to my ex-wife. I will not discuss my ex-wife or my personal relationship with anyone."

Tracy Johnson Hershman, who says she is a Republican, said he forced her to have an abortion. Brandt Hershman said, "I did not force anyone to do anything, ever, period." Tracy Johnson Hershman's response is that he may not have forcibly made her have an abortion, but he made it clear he wanted her to abort their child.

On Oct. 10 this year, the Indiana Right to Life Political Action Committee announced it had endorsed Hershman in his race. In the announcement, Mike Fichter, executive director of the PAC, said there is a clear "black-and-white choice" in the race. "Brandt Hershman is firm in his commitment to restoring and protecting the sanctity of life whereas Kathy Altman supports abortion on demand."

Altman, a Roman Catholic with four children, said that is untrue. Altman said she never sought the endorsement of Right to Life.

Hershman said a transcript of a Clinton County debate between the candidates confirms her pro-choice stand. A copy of the transcript provided by Right to Life that pertains to Altman's response to the question "What are your views on the abortion and partial abortion issue?":
"I'm a Catholic. I'm a religious woman. I'm pro-life ... however, I absolutely believe that a woman has a right to choose. I absolutely believe in our Supreme Court's judgment and that it is no one else's decision. It is the woman's right to choose. As far as partial(-birth) abortion, I think its horrorous (sic) because you see these pictures and it's so disgusting -- but it's nothing but another abortion and no abortion is pretty. You see that these are the facts and you don't mess around. But it is a woman's choice."

Hershman said if he is elected, he will support a bill that would require the same health standards for abortion clinics that are required of other Indiana outpatient surgical centers.

"It's where I stand and it's what I believe," he said. "For Kathy Altman to dignify this kind of personal attack is beyond humanity.

"Katie Wolf never had to do anything like this to get elected, and that's what this is about."
"I have said publicly and categorically that I would seek to ban partial-birth abortions and at such time as the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade with the exception of rape, incest and the life of the mother," Hershman said.

In response, Altman, the director of the Indiana Commission on Agriculture and Rural Development, said her position has been misrepresented by Hershman.

"I do not support any type of abortion. I do not support partial-birth abortion."
Hershman said he has kept the campaign between the two of them a clean one.

"I don't attack her beliefs. I don't attack her personally. I don't attack her family. I don't sling mud."

Hershman said he has asked Altman to pull ads, but she has refused.

"I've always been willing to discuss issues in a multitude of public forums, but I won't engage in this kind of public behavior now or later."

At the Indiana Republican Party Fall Dinner Oct. 27, Hershman was selected to lead the invocation. In a release from the Indiana Republican State Committee, State GOP Chairman Mike McDaniel said, "Brandt Hershman represents the future of our state. Hershman supports strong, conservative values."

Tracy Johnson Hershman, who is also Catholic, said her former husband did not want her to go to church.

"If he just got religion, he just got religion," she says.

"I am the one with the Catholic guilt over (the abortion)," she said. "I'm the one who sat there and cried over the entire thing."

The couple had been married since 1989.

Tracy Johnson Hershman said she is not out to assassinate the character of her former husband, but the truth has to be known, but she learned of some of the claims her former husband was making after his campaign supporters called on a former business associate.

Altman and Hershman are vying for the seat held by three-term incumbent Katie Wolf, D-Monticello. The district includes all or part of Carroll, White, Howard, Pulaski, Clinton, Jasper, Tippecanoe and Starke counties.

Dave Kitchell may be contacted at 722-5000, Ext. 5150, or via e-mail at david.kitchell@pharostribune.com

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I do find it amazing that the bloggers must do The Star's job. I find the blow job in the parking lot story to be quite interesting. I know who the blowee is but I'm quite curious about the blower. Anybody have a name? Bueller? Anyone?

Bil Browning said...

Thanks for the mention, Gary! Everyone can send tips about these "moral values police" hypocrites to the tip e-mail address I've set up. I'm sick of these bigots saying I'm attacking their marriage when I'm not the one trying to discriminate against them. I want to know all the dirty laundry. If we're going to talk about my sex life, then we're going to talk about theirs too!

Anonymous said...

I applaude you Gary...big time. If you are a Senator or Representative and you vote to add bigotry and discrimination to our constitution, you've opened a can of worms that will not be closed for a long, long time.

Anonymous said...

Anal Avengers & Rump Rangers need to keep it in their AIDS infested nest. There is no legitimizing the abominable sin!

Anonymous said...

10:47 - I vote to add morals and decency to the constitution! I never thought it necessary until recent day.

Jeff Newman said...

I'm posting this comment on Bilerico and Advance Indiana both:

It's interesting that when talking about our twinkie State Senator with the Sugar Daddy, the bloggers have been avoiding using his name--it's Brent Waltz from Greenwood, who hit the jackpot when he was 19.

This information is public and was published in the Indianapolis Star during the campaign:

During school, he struck up a friendship with George P. Rice Jr., an Indianapolis lawyer, college professor and nationally renowned public speaker. They met through Waltz's parents, who were involved in banking.

Apparently, Rice saw promise, Waltz said, and took him under his wing.

When Rice died in November 1991, Waltz inherited almost all of Rice's property and money. The payout was several hundred thousand dollars, and by all accounts it was well-invested.


My understanding is that a few eyebrows were raised, but for whatever reason it didn't get traction.

The Waltz story is an interesting one all around. Much like the Flogger who took out Bob Garton, Waltz was basically installed by the right wing who had a bone to pick with Phil Borst, so they whacked him in the primary, which basically guaranteed Waltz's election in a heavily Republican district.

The coup was done by using Waltz's money and the Johnson County political machine (if you can believe there is such a thing!), which I understand is more-or-less controlled by Greenwood Mayor Charlie Henderson and his cronies, which include Waltz's Daddy (real Daddy of course, not the dead Sugar Daddy).

He was 30 when he was elected to the state senate, and I'm pretty sure he had never lived anywhere but with Mommy and Daddy in Greenwood until the campaign, at which point I was told he moved into the district. According to a neighbor, he now spends most of his time at his parents' house, and the neighbor believes for all intents and purposes he has moved back in.

What really turned me against Waltz was when he spoke in favor of the amendment when it came up for a vote in the Senate. Had he been a freshman senator who voted wrong because he was afraid of the Republican establishment, it would have been understandable and he may have been deserving of a pass.

But he chose to make it known that he is a bona-fide right-winger and enemy of the GLBT community by giving an unnecessary speech in favor of a measure that had zero chance of failing. The only point of his speech was to demonstrate to the religious right that he was one of them, and he has since consistently demonstrated his loyalty to the far-right wing. I was not surprised to see him sucking up to Eric Miller at Advance America's recent gathering in Greenwood.

Whether he's gay or not is a matter of speculation, and there has certainly been plenty of that. He's never been married, and he was left a fortune by a single man to whom he was not related. Those are all facts, but I suppose none of that is really proof of anything.

Jay said...

ANON 11:46, and ANON 11:48. Firstly, cowards hide behind anonymous posts. Secondly, young straight men and women are in the highest risk groups for HIV since they still think it's just a gay disease. In Africa, AIDS IS the disease of straights.

Anonymous said...

"I'm sick and tired of these hypocritical Hoosier legislators who think that my sex life or relationship status is any of their business. Do I intrude on who they're sleeping with?"

What do the gay folks expect? What do all other Americans expect? We sat by while they took away individual freedom with "Civil Rights." Basically, telling others how they will run their business. A bunch of folks sat back and said "This is not a bad thing, regulating these people who dislike folks on religion, color, gender, etc." Then we decided to further take away the rights of more people by banning smoking in their business, unless of course you are a specific establishment. Further, we passed laws that Bilerico supports such as anti-gay discrimination laws. I am sick and tired of hypocritical Hoosiers who demand government force me to do things to their benefit. As long as a person does not do physical harm to another person or that person's property, they should be able to hire, fire, serve, etc. however they want.

Don't a lot of folks to care about the marriage issue. You folks turned your backs on others in their time of need, why should they help you now?

Anonymous said...

wow, 2:23--who peed in your oatmeal?

And, while I'm at it, who filled you with that kind of logic? Because it makes no sense.

Get happier. It'll change a lot in your life.

Joe Miller said...

Anon 2:26 -- Damm, I love your "..who peed in your oatmeal?" comment; it brought just the right amount of brevity to a somber subject.

After reading the bigoted comments posted by Anon's 11:46, 11:48 and 2:23 my blood began to boil and I decided to cross post my earlier post on Bilerco. I've never done this before and I hope it's okay.

Let the bigots come out from under their rocks and spew their ignorance and hatred anonymously. I bet, though, that there are a lot more of us out there, and we ought to fill Gary's blog with our posts! Thanks to Gary for providing the forum.

Let me share my thoughts on 'outing' people. And, to those who are reading this who do not share my views, I hope you can find it in your heart to reconsider your position. Lives are at stake.

When I was much younger, I was even more liberal than I am today.

At age 19 while working in a factory for the summer in Muncie, Indiana, I led a group of UAW workers out the door in an impromptu and unauthorized mini-strike.

When I was in my 20's I was the victim of police brutality when I was beaten bloody and choked during a confrontation in which I stupidly stood up to a group of bigoted Indianapolis police officers who were harassing young gay men on a busy downtown street where we had gathered to socialize together (then referred to as 'cruising').

For the next few years I had more than one confrontation with what seemed then to be a sea of corrupt cops, some of which resulted in arrest and more brutality (Fortunately, today our police department is much more professional, and more tolerant of diversity).

I also lost two jobs when it was discovered that I was gay in the mid-1970's.

Back then, there was nothing we could do. We had to accept it. It was either live in a closet or risk various forms of abuse. The abuse often came from those entrusted with the responsibility to protect all citizens -- the police and prosecutors.

Having lived through that, and having lived in my own closet for a long time, I've long been on the fence about 'outing' people.

But today, the gloves are off. I agree with Bil that we must take this step as part of our arsenal of weapons to stop the bigots and homophopes -- at both ends of the political specturm -- from ripping from us even more of the basic rights guaranteed to us in the US and Indiana constitutions.

To be 'outed' today carries little of the baggage or fear of thirty years ago, or even fifteen years ago. The majority of society is on our side today and it's unlikely that anyone who is outed today will face the potential for brutality that we faced not that many years ago.

I believe that today we have a duty to 'out' any and all hypocritical LGBT men and woman who dare to prey on our community and sell us down the river, whether it's for religious or political gain.

To save time I apologetically have plagiarized "Jay's" post on his MySpace site for an email that am sending to as many people as I can. Thank you Jay.

And thank you Bil for this wonderful idea. By each of us doing just a little bit in this battle, together we can move mountains.

For that 10 year old who today may not yet know they are 'different', and for all the LGBT teens who are entering the prime of their lives soon, it's all too important that we do what we must today so that they have a better life tomorrow.

Joe Miller

Tanning Lotion said...

That is about par for the course.